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Schools are the center of the community and when schools are transformed in positive ways, communities are transformed. The continued rise of poverty is not surprising when policies and practices that could contribute to eliminating poverty are not addressed well. The foundation of systematic oppression is rooted in practices that contribute to a system becoming self-perpetuating because the conditions are institutionalized and habits are formed that are not interrupted.

Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard visits with students at lunchtime.

A new agreement to fund programs that keep high-needs students on track from preschool through graduation marks the first formal partnership between two New Orleans’ school systems that work side by side.

Superintendent Pia Durkin visits classrooms in her district to learn about the students and staff and their needs.

Pia Durkin took the reins as superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools, one of the lowest-performing districts in Massachusetts, this past July facing a Herculean task.

Even before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the city and the state had been the focus of school reform. The Recovery School District project aimed to turn around underperforming schools on a grand scale. But Katrina gave officials a reason to wipe the slate clean in poverty stricken New Orleans. Hope Against Hope (Bloomsbury Press, 2013), by Times-Picayune reporter Sarah Carr, examines those reform efforts from the perspective of the teachers and families they affected.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre interacts with Knox County elementary school students.

Knox County Schools is a flourishing district in Tennessee, with most of its 15 high schools having graduation rates above 90 percent. Within the last five years, the district has also has also seen modest gains in reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests for grades 3 through 8.

Connecticut, home to some of the wealthiest and most destitute towns in the country, has the nation’s largest student achievement gap, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

This gap is most severe in Bridgeport, Conn., one of the poorest cities in the United States based on the percentage of children living at or below the federal poverty line. In Bridgeport Public Schools, fewer than half of the 21,000 students are proficient in math and reading, according to the Connecticut Department of Education, and the high school graduation rate is 55 percent.

A Nation at Risk: 30 Years Later

The National Commission on Excellence in Education published “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 during the Reagan administration. The report attacked the U.S. education system and called for immediate and extensive reform. Hugely influential, the report inspired much discussion regarding the effectiveness of public schools. Thirty years later, educators from District Administration held an interactive web seminar to debate the influence of the report, as well as what the state of education is today and what the future could hold.

Prior to Dec. 14, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) had its 2013 agenda set. However, like many others in the K12 education community, on that dreadful day of the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, CAPSS’ priorities changed. We spoke with Executive Director Joe Cirasuolo about how the association has redirected its efforts this year to focus on helping administrators improve their crisis management systems and strategies to help prevent an attack such as the one in Newtown from happening again.

Located on the North Carolina border in eastern Tennessee, the rural Blount County school system has 20,000 students and four major high schools. The district is very socioeconomically diverse, and includes students living at the poverty level, some from wealthy households and many others in between. Tensions between these student populations can create a host of serious problems—including bullying, prescription drug abuse, and weapons possession.

With tight budgets, scarce resources, and rigorous state and federal standards, it seems that providing individualized math instruction would be a challenge for many schools. However, by taking advantage of appropriate technology and allowing for flexibility, many schools across the country are developing IEPs for every student. In this web seminar originally broadcast on September 13, 2012, expert speakers discussed the keys to successfully creating these IEPs.